Persistent and Pervasive: Feminists Take on Toxics

By Judy Norsigian — December 7, 2020

For a variety of reasons, including gendered work and home experiences, women face different environmental health risks than men. Women are more likely to use personal care products, cosmetics, and cleaning products, and therefore more likely to face daily exposure to the toxic chemicals in many consumer products. As awareness of toxic chemicals has increased, feminist scientists and activists are drawing attention to the real adverse health risks they pose and have mobilized to work toward creative and radical solutions.

Sally Edwards, an environmental health scientist, long-time feminist, and OBOS collaborator, has been gathering stories from these experts and activists. She has now created a wonderful new podcast, Persistent and Pervasive: Feminists Take on Toxics.

The series, which is co-produced by media producer and archivist Anna Mason, is a crash course in feminist environmental health. Each episode focuses on a product marketed to women and girls and describes the toxic chemicals in the product, the disproportionate exposures often faced by women of color and/or of lower socio-economic status, and the work that feminist scientists and activists are doing to solve these problems. These include cleaning products, cosmetics/personal care, menstrual/intimate care products and more.

The newly released pilot episode centers on toxic chemicals in menstrual and intimate care products. As hosts, Sally and Anna give a brief history of how these products have been developed and marketed and then interview experts about the toxic chemicals in them and the ways that feminist scientists and activists are creating solutions.

For their next episode, the Persistent and Pervasive team will dive into the topic of cleaning products (especially topical in 2020). They will describe the toxic chemicals in many cleaning products, how the use of these products is increasing during the Covid-19 pandemic, the exposures faced by cleaning workers, and the solutions that feminist scientists and activists are developing and promoting, including green chemistry alternatives. We can expect that episode in early 2021, with more to come soon after.

I believe that Persistent and Pervasive will help reach those who care about women’s bodies and women’s health, and will further the efforts to eliminate toxic chemicals from consumer products.

I hope you will take a moment to listen to the 3 minute trailer and the pilot episode. You can also find Persistent and Pervasive on Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

You can contact the Persistent and Pervasive team at

One response to “Persistent and Pervasive: Feminists Take on Toxics”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for starting this podcast!!! It is so needed!

    I started developing issues from fragrances around 20 years ago and my issues have worsened. I have been diagnosed with a still highly stigmatized condition called “Environmental Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.” There are other names for it too such as “Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance” or T.I.L.T. for short. This condition predominantly affects women.

    I also have a public health background. I live in Ontario, Canada and have lost my job due to my illness despite my condition being recognized by the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commission. This is unfortunately too common. A further injustice to women given the other social inequities we face.

    Please keep up the good work! I am hoping to start a blog where I analyze the issue from a public health perspective. When I do, I can share the link with you if you are interested.


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